With all the wonderful weather we have been having in June and July, like many others, I have spent more time in my garden.  Usually I enjoy the sight of many butterflies and bees feeding on my Buddleia bushes and other flowers.  Sadly there seems to be fewer butterflies this year and I did not spot the first Peacock until mid July.  As a Parish Council, we have had a request from the Beekeepers Association of the High Weald to ask our community to be on the look out for Asian Hornets (as opposed to our native European Hornet) which are invading the British Isles from Europe.  These aggressive predatory insects have been killing our honey bees and other pollinators. Please report any sightings to the Beekeepers so they can deal with these hornets.

Wadhurst Household Recycling Centre                                                                                      Following the decision made by East Sussex County Council to close this much-used local facility on 30th September, the Parish Council decided at its July meeting to investigate alternative ways, perhaps setting up a Community Interest Company, to run the Recycling Centre.  The Parish Council cannot, according to current legislation, take on the Centre.  Cllr Bob Standley has arranged a meeting with the officer at East Sussex County Council who is responsible for Household Recycling Centres so we examine in detail the financing of running the Wadhurst Centre.  Any shortfall in income would possibly be made up by a small entrance charge for each visit.

Wadhurst Neighbourhood Plan                                                                                                                The steering group has been very busy getting the message out locally through handouts, questionnaires and an exhibition.  From the Annual Parish Meeting, they got 400 comments.  Leafleting commuters at Wadhurst Railway Station for a week, resulted in 10 returned questionnaires.  In June at the Primary School and Tidebrook Fetes, 30 were returned.  The official launch day in the Commemoration Hall was well-attended and produced 600 ideas and comments as well as 25 volunteers for Focus groups.  At Wadhurst Country Fair another 4 volunteered their help.  Analysis of the comments so far reveals the key issues are highways/ parking and the variety of shops/facilities (20% of the returns).  There is interesting ‘evidence’ on the depth of feeling on the Wadhurst Recycling Centre and better mobile reception/broadband.

The next step is to set up Focus Groups to develop themes, vision, policies and include the many additional volunteers who showed an interest in the Neighbourhood Plan.  Also having set up a website, Twitter and Facebook, we are looking for a Social Media expert to really focus on this in order to get better engagement with the younger generation.

Wealden Local Plan Draft Proposed Document                                                                                 This contains a range of environmental measures to ensure growth can proceed without causing irreversible damage to our regionally important local ecology. The proposals are in line with the latest Government aims to meet the widespread housing need. Mitigation measures and a thorough review system will ensure that the growth and prosperity needed in Wealden does not conflict with our many environmental responsibilities. These include Ashdown Forest, one of the largest stretches of lowland heath in Britain. Developers will be expected to install certain infrastructure items on site and make a contribution to ensure this protection succeeds. The Wealden Local Plan will meet its Objectively Assessed Housing Need.  The focus of growth remains on the south but the 2018 Plan allows for a more balanced approach to housing and economic growth across the District to reduce the need to commute. It outlines opportunities for retail and employment to support this.

Smaller sites for housing allocations have been identified within sustainable settlements, such as Wadhurst. Windfall developments, taking advantage of opportunities that arise within existing development boundaries, may account for further dwellings. Some of these can be delivered through Neighbourhood Development Plans, which allow the local community an involvement in site allocation.

Governing the progress of the Local Plan will be the Constraints and Review Mechanism. Land won’t be released without the timely provision of the infrastructure necessary to deliver housing. This includes transport improvements in the mitigation measures for Ashdown Forest Special Area of Conservation. If these do not take place, it will trigger a review, in part or in whole, of the Plan.

The delivery of road improvements, schools and medical provision has always been a key part of the Wealden Local Plan. Wealden will be working with key local stakeholders, strategic transport providers and developers to enable the funding and delivery of the strategic road and rail infrastructure at the earliest opportunity.

The Draft of the Local Plan Proposed Submission Document takes into account the earlier Issues Options & Recommendations consultation which took place during the autumn of 2015 and resulted in 2,038 responses from 412 residents and organisations. It was presented to a meeting of Wealden District Council’s Full Council on 18 July and was approved.  There will be a period from 13th August to 8th October 2018 when the public can make representations as to the soundness of the Plan, before it is sent to an independent Planning Inspector for a final decision.

The Wealden Local Plan Draft Proposed Submission document, as well as its accompanying documents, the Implementation and Monitoring Framework, the Habitats Regulations Assessment and the Sustainability Appraisal can be found on the Wealden District Council website with Local Plan Sub Committee agenda papers http://council.wealden.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=534&MId=4548&Ver=4

It will be an item on the agenda of the September meeting of Wadhurst Parish Council.

Graham Wells

Chairman, Wadhurst Parish Council

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